Advertising Finds Itself in the Crosshairs Around the Globe

Privacy, Fatty Foods, Alcohol and Marketing to Children Top of Mind Outside U.S.

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Junk food, alcohol and online privacy: The same three issues are challenging advertising regulators around the world, but each region has its own set of priorities and its own ways of dealing with the problems.

In the more developed economies like the EU and the U.S., privacy is the big issue of the decade. The popularity of social networking and other online activities have presented challenges to regulators, and finding the balance between commercial imperatives and individual rights is the subject of much debate, with "the right to be forgotten" at the center of it all.

Elsewhere, alcohol and junk food are still posing the more pressing problems, as regulators look to encourage healthy societies with varying degrees of leniency toward marketers of these products.

Click on each of the countries below to see how regulation is affecting the local ad industry.

world map The issue of HFSS advertising to children was discussed in parliament last year, but marketers are still waiting to find out how strongly the new president, Dilma Rousseff, feels about the issue. The South African Department of Health wants to ban all alcohol advertising across the country as part of a radical attempt to improve the nation's alcohol problems. In South Africa, out of every 1,000 children starting school, 50 will have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and in some regions the rate is more than double. The government is considering banning all alcohol sponsorship associated with sports. Smoking has decreased since tobacco sponsorship was outlawed, and the hope is that a ban on alcohol sponsorship can have a similar effect. The Australian government has already allocated $25 million for a trial program replacing alcohol-industry sponsorship of community sports and cultural events. Norway and France have long-standing bans in place, and France successfully hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup without any alcohol sponsorship. Spain and Italy are transposing the recently revised EU ePrivacy Directive and are considering an opt-in approach to online behavioral advertising, treating all information stored in cookies as if it were personal. The media and advertising industries advocate a less-disruptive approach, based on notice and choice. It's not just Western markets that struggle with HFSS foods and advertising to children -- the issues are mobilizing governments globally. In Taiwan, the government is drafting measures to ban advertising to children and to increase tax on HFSS foods. Turkey has banned alcohol advertising and sponsorship around sports events and restricted its sale to licensed shops and restaurants. Despite the secular government, marketers are concerned that Turkey will be seen as a Muslim country where lifestyle choices are restricted. Across Europe, privacy is set to be the issue of the decade. A data-protection directive is due to be drafted later this year, paying particular attention to social networks and the capture and use of data online. One of the most sensitive debates is around the right level of protection for children: How will marketers ask for consent? What is the appropriate privacy policy? Estonia is the latest country to propose a ban on the advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) during children's programs in response to the World Health Organization's recommendation that governments address rising rates of obesity. Defining the criteria for defining what constitutes HFSS continues to be a sticking point. In France, the idea of good and bad food was rejected outright, and the ad industry instead made a bargain that it would produce 600 hours a year of audio-visual content on healthful lifestyles for a children's audience.
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